Moving Schizophrenics into the Community Does Not Increase Crime
A psychiatric epidemiologist, who works with a community-based treatment
program for mentally ill people judged not guilty by reason of insanity, tells
WebMD that such programs need community support and adequate resources to
"Why would someone with a history of mental illness commit some violent
act? It's usually the people who are not adhering to their treatment regimen,
they have problems with substance abuse, or there's no effective treatment in
the community, so they're not getting the treatment that they need for it,"
says Howard Kravitz, DO, MPH, associate professor of psychiatry and preventive
medicine and director of research for the section of psychiatry and the law at
Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. Kravitz was not
involved in the study.
"Overall, among psychiatry patients you probably don't have a higher
risk [of crime] for people with serious mental illness. The problem is that
you've got a small group that will go out and commit violent acts, and those
are the people who make the headlines."
The study's authors say that mental-health services should aim to reduce the
higher crime rates associated with schizophrenia, but that a move away from
community care is not likely to help.
"To return to a situation in which those individuals in the early stages
of a schizophrenic illness spend extended periods in institutions will require
the clock to be turned back several decades, and its influence on offending, if
any, remains unclear," they write, but they go on to emphasize that
"community care may not be responsible for the raised rates of offending,
but it will be held responsible if it does not actively address the prevention
of that offending."
- A study in Australia has shown that moving schizophrenic patients out of
mental hospitals and into the communities has not produced an increase in
- Experts say the trend toward deinstitutionalization is occurring throughout
- One scientist argues that the increased attention to violent crimes
committed by schizophrenic patients is a result of heightened awareness, not
increases in crime.